I love to get into the weeds and really challenge our given perceptions of things. I like to look at the reasons why we fail or succeed at changes especially. Sometimes when I look closer at things I get to a point where I actually do get to the root of things and all there is in front of me is a hard truth. Hard truths can be infuriating and freeing at the same time. We struggle to make so many changes in life because we don’t have to make them at all. I don’t need to work harder and make more money, I don’t absolutely have to get in better shape, I could live every second of my life just going to work, eating fast food, and watching tv. We feel the pressure to change because we know better exists. If someone held my family hostage and said build a 100 million dollar company, I could do it. If someone told me to hit a certain weight or they would kill me, all of my emotional decision making would go away and I would just do it. We don’t have anyone forcing us to make the progress we want to make and that is often why we struggle to do it. We need to develop a habit of not brushing off the consequences of choices and draw a hard line if we want to progress. This article is about one of many hard truths we must face if we want to make progress so our goals can be achieved. This hard truth is the fact that we cannot partition our week into weekday and weekend behaviors and expect major health changes. The weekend is roughly ⅓ of your meals. Defining the weekend as Friday night through Sunday night, if you eat 3 meals a day and a snack your eating 9 out of 28 meals on your weekend. I’m going to dive into all the ways your weekend is affecting your health goals and some ways to break a cycle that is sabotaging you. My goal is for you to enjoy yourself without sabotaging the things you want. Fun shouldn’t prevent happiness.
Hypotheticals and Fun with Numbers
A common heath strategy is to not go too long without meals in order to prevent overeating at the next meal and to allow you to make good choices. This concept expands beyond individual days and applies to our weeks as well. If I eat a super restrictive diet during the week and deny myself all joys then it only makes sense that I will eventually hit a point where because I have been so restrictive, I indulge with reckless abandon when I give myself the green light to let loose. I know far too much about binge eating. I am the poster child for binge eating. I still light up when I see a chinese buffet. Just last weekend myself and two friends ordered 2 pizzas and the absurd thought crossed my mind, “Is this going to be enough food?” Of course two 2,500-3,000 calorie pizzas will be enough for us. You may not struggle from the temptation to binge, but instead, want to not stress about it or have to think about it and be able to treat yourself for making good decisions and working hard this last week. While this thinking is not completely wrong, we need to look at the hard truth of how much we can indulge and how to do it.
If I want to lose a pound a week I need to consume 500 calories less than I need per day through a variety of exercise (burning more) and food choices (intaking less).
If I do this Monday through Thursday I have eaten 2,000 less calories than I need so far this week. I have been doing really good and now the weekend comes. Between pizza on Friday night, bbqs, popcorn at the movies, sunday brunch, and fried chicken at grandmas, I can easily cancel out this 2,000 calorie deficit I had going into Friday night. If your very curious, I challenge you to try and calorie track one night out using an app like MyFitnessPal and really take a look at how many extra calories are sneaking into your life. Remember through all of this, the goal is to find the maximum amount I can enjoy while still progressing. Just for reference I have some conservative numbers to think about:
1 glass of wine = 150-250 calories (how often is it really a 6oz glass?)
1 slice of pizza = 250-350 calories
1 craft beer = 200-250 calories (12oz)
The hard truth is we cannot completely shut off the whole weekend and continue to progress in our health goals. We need to look at how to build some consistency throughout the weekend. Take a moment to ask yourself some questions
What things provide me the most enjoyment on the weekend and what things aren’t really adding to my enjoyment?
Do I indulge for one meal or for a whole weekend?
Do I restrict things so much during the week that I feel I deserve or absolutely have to have some off limit items during the weekend?
Do I ever do less activity on the weekend because I am hungover or feel too full from things I’ve enjoyed?
Would I eat some pie on Tuesday if it prevented me from making 3 sabotaging choices on the weekend?
Everything has an equal and opposite reaction. Work creates the need for rest, strict dieting creates the need for feasting. Progress comes when you can keep balance.
Enjoy Things Better
We have spent the first part of this article pointing out all of the ways you should limit how much you eat and drink on the weekend, but like I have mentioned before, I want you to live the happiest most enjoyable life that you can. If we are going to be lowering the amount of decadent food and drink that we have on the weekend we need to practice enjoying things better. We need to look for better quality since we have cut back on quantity. The biggest strategy that has helped me is to eat slowly until I am 80% full. Taking my time to enjoy my food has helped me consume the right amount of it. If I am going to have some pizza I’m not going to berate myself for having it because by enjoying this slice of pizza I’m helping myself continue to make good decisions later. I am going to eat it slowly, taste it , and enjoy it. Especially if it’s the weekend. Every next slice I eat will taste a little less satisfying, so the first slice is the best one. It is the law of diminishing returns. This is a practice for life long happiness. I want to milk every moment for maximum happiness. Part of what makes us want to pack so much into the weekend is we have created this environment of scarcity. We feel a need to enjoy as much as we can right now because we know Monday is coming and we will have to be “good” again. It’s a lot easier to have one beer on Saturday if I know I can choose to have another Tuesday. If I feel that I’m restricted and this is my big chance to enjoy myself I’m going to enjoy 4 beers on Saturday. That’s twice as much than if I a gave myself the option of a little joy during the week. If you can stay moderate in amount at all times then you will never feel this urgency to overindulge. The ability to truly savor and enjoy things is a lifelong skill. Some tips to enjoy things better are:
Eat slowly until you’re 80% full
Put the food/fork down between bites and think about what your tasting
Mentally let yourself enjoy the food (don’t emotionally punish yourself for enjoying a food)
Order small orders of something with confidence you can always get more if you truly want/ need more
Always try to give food and drink as much time as can be to be enjoyed to constantly reinforce this habit
We can practice these skills during the week when it is easier to make healthier food choices. Healthier foods are easier to practice putting down when satisfied and are more forgiving when you do overeat them. If we can keep working to prioritize at least 30 dedicated minutes to sit and enjoy each meal during the week when time is even tighter, then on the weekend we will have had the practice and experience for the weekend when we are enjoying foods that are much easier to eat too much of.
You Can’t Fall Off The Wagon. There Is No Wagon.
A big thing I have been alluding to is breaking down the weekday/ weekend mentality. “Work hard, play hard” is not the best way to live. If you want cake on a weekday, it’s better to have one small slice, enjoy it and then move along with making good choices rather than waiting until the weekend and having 3 slices. Healthy behaviors are about constantly practicing making the best decision you can right now. You don’t need to wait until Monday to make a change, change right now with a small step in the direction you want to go. If you eat a salad with a coke but had a coke with a burger yesterday congratulations you got better. If you are constantly chasing perfection you will be caught in a cycle of restriction and failure. If you try to go on a major diet where you change all your eating and exercise habits overnight (how are those new year’s resolutions going?) it’s like taking a test for a class you haven’t gone to all semester. You shouldn’t be surprised when you change everything at once and don’t succeed. You earn the confidence and ability to succeed in healthy behaviors by tweaking things slowly. So in every decision, try to make a slightly better one, even on the weekend. Have a slightly better weekend than last weekend and smile when you do.
Use Your Freedom Wisely
The weekend can be such a beautiful time. If you work a traditional work week then your weekend is full of possibilities. Take advantage of your free time to be active. Go for walks, play with your kids, or try a new recipe and fire up the grill. The weekend can be your biggest health asset if you look at it different. You can get outside more than the work week. You can play with your kids more. You have more time to cook and enjoy than a busy work week. You don’t need to eat fast because your not in a hurry. If your weekends are as busy as your week then I really encourage you to look for ways to slow things down a little at a time. As humans we all have to rest to be productive. Protect your downtime aggressively then ensure that your downtime is good for you. Monday isn’t so bad, Friday isn’t so great.